Friday, October 20, 2017

Dani Pettrey's "Blind Spot" - the plot thickens . . .

Blind Spot (Chesapeake Valor, #3)FBI Agent Declan Grey knows a terrorist attack is coming, but it isn't until he is temporarily partnered with crisis counselor Tanner Shaw that he finally gains a solid lead. Tanner and Declan have butted heads since first being introduced, but now working in close proximity, the tension is producing sparks. With the clock running down to figure out the terrorists' plans, and someone out to kill them both, will they ever get the chance to act on their feelings?

My earlier speculation that this series would be best read all together is proven correct--I'm really wishing July 2018 was a lot closer right now. It's not a true cliffhanger, but let's just say the next book can't come soon enough! The books all tie in together a lot more than most series in the genre, so I highly recommend reading them in order.

At first I wasn't too sure what to think of two entirely unrelated cases going on at once in the story, but given how much we've already invested in the characters in the series, I decided it's a good call. Griff and Finley, Parker and Avery, and now the upcoming Luke and Kate are all as equally important to the series as Declan and Tanner, though in this book Declan and Tanner take the forefront, as the others each do in their respective books. It's more like a tv show this way, with the main couple having the more important of the two investigations, and the supporting cast following their own, with each occasionally getting help from the other. It means we can keep tabs on all the characters who have come to mean so much in the series. The terrorist plot makes the other investigation seem--not trite, but of significantly less importance. Yet on the other hand, I felt that that investigation is much more personal to the group than a potential terrorist attack.

I was pleasantly surprised with Tanner in this book; my impression of her from the earlier books was that she is a crusader for whom the cause is more important than common sense. However, she proved a lot more sensible in this book, not to mention competent. She still has a big heart for helping refugees and the downtrodden, but she doesn't let it consume her at the expense of friendships, love, or survival. She and Declan really do make a good couple, with a lot more in common than I first thought (including their faith).

I enjoyed the non-stop action of this book, and I can't wait for the next!

Thank you Bethany House for a free book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Chesapeake Valor
1. Cold Shot
2. Still Life
3. Blind Spot
4. Dead Drift (July 2018)

Monday, October 16, 2017

"Lady Jayne Disappears" by Joanna Davidson Politano - an enchanting story

Lady Jayne DisappearsBrought to her aunt's home along with her father's other personal effects after his death in a debtor's prison, Aurelie finds herself in household surrounded by small-minded relatives who greet her with apathy at best, with the exception of the one other houseguest, Silas Rotherham, who finds her conversation intriguing. With no other outlet but her writing, Aurelie decides to finish her father's serial novel about her mother--written under a the pen name, Nathaniel Droll. As her father was wont to do, she begins writing more of her secretive relations into the serial, and it doesn't take long for them to notice the similarities between the stories and their lives. Can she keep the identity of her pen name a secret as she searches for the ending--both the fictional one and the true one--to her mother's story?

The cover drew me in first, then the description heightened my interest--but the story is what enchanted me. It's different--more Dickens than Austen, Gothic yet faith-filled, and not without humor.

I loved Aurelie's simple, unshakable faith; there are a lot of things about both her life and her family's history that she has to learn, but God's faithfulness is not one of them. I especially loved her prayer, "God, give me exactly what I would ask for if I knew everything you know." She has the wisdom to ask for the best.

My opinion of Aurelie's aunt definitely changed by the end of the book; I could respect her decisions, hard as they clearly were for her--no matter how much you love someone and want to save them from themselves, at some point that beloved person has to accept the consequences of their choices.

I loved the ending; maybe I shouldn't have been surprised by it, but the story was sufficiently enchanting that I wasn't thinking ahead, just enjoying the moment. But I look forward to rereading it to see all those hints I missed!

Thank you Revell and NetGalley for a free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Denise Hunter's "Blue Ridge Sunrise"

Blue Ridge Sunrise (Blue Ridge Romance #1)Coming back to Georgia for the first time in five years, Zoe discovers that she's inherited her grandmother's peach farm. Everyone in her hometown expects her to stay and run it, while her boyfriend Kyle expects her to sell it and return to their singing career in Nashville with him. But Granny's farm was the one place she's always been happy, even if it also holds memories of her first love, Cruz Huntley--and her broken heart. As tension ramps up between her and her boyfriend--as well as Cruz--will Zoe regain the courage to choose for herself what's best?

During the story we get a fairly long flashback sequence of Zoe and Cruz's relationship, including the answer to the fairly big question of how Zoe ended up with Kyle instead. I definitely liked Zoe's adult self better than her irresponsible teenage self, though I didn't ever really connect with her--maybe it was too many personality changes (between the beginning, the flashback, and the end). Who I really liked was her best friend Hope--I'm glad to see the next book will feature her! She makes a great best friend, and I look forward to learning more of her story. And, for that matter, I really liked Zoe's brother (particularly as a great candidate for Hope).

While this isn't a thriller, there is some suspense towards the end. Apparently I psyched myself out (probably from reading too many actual suspense novels) into thinking that the obvious villain couldn't possibly be behind the arson; I had another perpetrator all picked out, motive determined and everything--but it turns out that I far, far overthought things.

There wasn't much of a faith message in this book, especially not compared to certain others by the author, though the characters (especially their poorer choices) felt realistic to today's society. It definitely was not my favorite of Hunter's novels, but still a solid romance.

Thank you Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for a free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Blue Ridge Romance
1. Blue Ridge Sunrise
2. Honeysuckle Dreams (May 2018)

Related novel:
Sweetbriar Cottage

Monday, October 9, 2017

Todd Johnson's "Fatal Trust" and "The Deposit Slip" - two great legal suspense stories

I've gotten into the habit of reviewing books so much that I almost feel guilty if I don't write at least a little blurb on my impressions. So here are my quick thoughts on a couple legal suspenses I just read--both taking place in Minnesota, for a change.

Fatal TrustFatal Trust by Todd Johnson ~ about a young attorney asked to distribute a several million dollar trust that grows more suspicious by the day, and might somehow be tied to Minnesota's greatest--and unsolved--art heist.

I enjoyed this legal suspense set in the Twin Cities--it was fun that I recognized a number of the places and neighborhoods mentioned, and even better, it offers one possible answer to Minnesota's greatest art heist. The author does a good job sucking the reader in, and just like Ian, we don't know just what we're getting into . . . until we're in too deep to stop. I'll have to read some of this author's earlier novels!

As a note, while there is a hint of romance, it is far more focused on the mystery and suspense; I wouldn't call it a romantic suspense, so if that's what you're looking for, be forewarned.

The Deposit SlipThe Deposit Slip by Todd Johnson ~ about an old deposit slip found for over 10 million dollars that the bank claims to have no record of, yet there are just enough inconsistencies to suspect there's something to the claim.

This is the third legal suspense I've read in about a month, and I'm getting a much better picture of how lawsuits work. I'd hope I'd never get involved in a case like this one, though--how do you prove something exists when the proof was wiped out years ago? Of course, any time people are involved, no cover-up can be completely guaranteed.

I enjoyed watching Jared and his crew do the impossible, and while I knew it had to work out in the end, it looked oh-so-grim for a while. It certainly kept me on the edge of my seat! A great legal suspense!

Friday, October 6, 2017

"The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck" - full of both humor and real-life issues

The Secret Life of Sarah HollenbeckWhen Sarah Hollenbeck--a.k.a. erotic romance novelist Raine de Bourgh--comes to Christ, she's determined to live a life more fitting with with her new convictions. But just because she has new convictions doesn't mean it's easy to leave behind the world, especially when she's still contracted for one more book--and her publisher and fans have some decided expectations from steamy Raine de Bourgh. Also, it didn't occur to her that the church might take issue with her tithing royalties from her notably scandalous novels . . . and then there's the fact she's falling in love with her pastor while still figuring out how to be a christian woman in a secular society.

I wouldn't call the entire book laughing-out-loud funny, because there's way too many thought-provoking and seriously moving moments throughout the story, but there were moments I laughed so hard tears were leaking out of my eyes. And moments when my eyes were leaking for entirely different reasons.

What impresses me most about the book is the very honest feel to it--you have a woman who is lost and unloved, who is trying to find herself again. After some crazy detours, she eventually finds God and is needing to reconcile her new life with the choices and consequences of her past that won't just go away. She is just learning how to be a Christian, including things that so many of us grew up with, like basic bible stories, and tithing, and all the "rules" that "good Christians" have had drilled into them from birth. Her transformation is genuine, which leads to--in spite of her comparative ignorance--convictions that she chooses to follow. But that doesn't mean that living the pure life she wants to live is remotely easy, and almost immediately she encounters blatant Pharisaical attitudes in the church. And the fact is, in real life it's really hard to avoid the temptations of the flesh, and the church is full of broken, imperfect people who need Jesus as much as you do.

I think everyone can find something in Sarah to relate to--whether it's the fear of opening oneself up to friendship or love and risk being hurt again, or the temptations of a wordly lifestyle that doesn't want to let go, or the disillusionment of following one's convictions only to be blasted by the people who should agree with your choices, or just the insecurities almost every woman faces when in a relationship. But just as easily, I think people can relate to her self-deprecating humor and ability to laugh at herself. It's the perfect balance between humor and gritty, real-life issues. 5 stars!

As a side note, I would love to read Piper's story--she's the best kind of best friend!

Thank you Revell and Netgalley for a free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

For a musical-style trailer for the book, I highly recommend watching the video, "What's a Girl to Do?" by Easton Toles--it captures Sarah Hollenbeck's dilemma perfectly!

Monday, October 2, 2017

New October Christian Fiction releases

Lots of new releases this October, in historical, contemporary romance, and suspense. I can't wait to read them all!

Christmas at Carnton (Carnton #0.5) Too Far Down (The Cimarron Legacy, #3) Lady Jayne Disappears
Christmas at Carnton by Tamera Alexander (Thomas Nelson); Carton, book 0.5 (novella)

In the midst of war, an expecting widow facing eviction finds work with a wounded soldier at one of Franklin, Tennessee's estates.

Too Far Down by Mary Connealy (Bethany House); Cimarron Legacy, book 3

An explosion at the family mine brings the eldest son--a Harvard graduate--home, but will it be the cowgirl friend from childhood that keeps him there?

Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Davidson Politano (Revell)

When her penniless father dies, a young woman takes over his pen name and serial while trying to discover the mystery of mother's disappearance.

A Dangerous Legacy Where We Belong The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck
A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden (Bethany House)

A new arrival threatens a telegrapher's position, but when she discovers his shocking secret, she agrees to help him--if he helps her find her family's stolen inheritance. But there's a lot more going on behind the scenes than either could ever predict . . .

Where We Belong by Lynn Austin (Bethany House)

Accompanied by their butler and a street urchin, a pair of atypical Victorian sisters set out on an adventure to the Holy Land to find an important biblical manuscript.

Contemporary Romance:
The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner (Revell)

When a writer of steamy romances meets the Lord (and a handsome pastor), what should she do with her new convictions when they don't align with her publishing contract?

Blind Spot (Chesapeake Valor, #3) Dangerous Illusions (Code of Honor #1)
Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey (Bethany House); Chesapeake Valor, book 3

An FBI agent and crisis counselor come across evidence of a terrorist cell and are in a race to stop them before the "wrath descends."

Dangerous Illusions by Irene Hannon (Revell); Code of Honor, book 1

When a series of memory lapses leads to a tragic death, a woman lands under police scrutiny--but is there more to the case than meets the eye?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Irene Hannon's "Dangerous Illusions" - a diabolically clever twist

Dangerous Illusions (Code of Honor #1)When Trish Bailey's mother dies from what looks like could be a pill overdose--possibly due to Trish's memory lapses--Trish falls under police scrutiny. Detective Colin Flynn's gut says she's innocent of deliberate wrongdoing, but as time goes on, strange inconsistencies begin adding up to something more sinister than Trish and Colin could have possibly guessed.

For me, Irene Hannon's villains are the highlight of her suspense novels, and this might be her cleverest twist yet on a villain--a twist that I did not see coming. There's very little I can say about our most clever and diabolical villain without spoiling the brilliance for everyone else, so suffice to say, he's good and supremely well-developed. The author is brilliant for creating him.

The backcover copy of the book describes it as "a mind-bending story that will have [the reader] doubling back to retrace their steps--and figure out what they missed!" While I would normally consider this exaggeration, in this case it was actually true for me. And everything I retraced made total sense.

Based on the story, I'm assuming the next two books of the series will follow Colin's close friends from their childhood Treehouse Gang, who are--contrary to patterns in previous series--not all in law enforcement. I'm definitely interested to see where their stories go!

Thank you Revell and NetGalley for a free e-book; I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Code of Honor
1. Dangerous Illusions